‘Nasty neighbours can’t handle the 35-year age gap between us’

Dear Coleen

I’m sick to death of having to justify my relationship to the world, his wife and their dog. And I need some advice of how to handle it before I completely lose it with someone.

My partner and I have an age gap of 35 years and have been together for more than 20 years. We did not break up any marriages, never had affairs, just kept ourselves to ourselves – and yet still people look down their noses at us as if we disgust them.

People think they have the right to ask us really personal questions, such as ‘What will you do when he dies?’, ‘Do you still have sex?’ and ‘Has he got money then?’ People are so rude.

Most of the time, I couldn’t give a damn about what people think, but every now and then someone pushes it too far and it takes me days to calm down.

Last week, I arrived home to find our new neighbours had come over to introduce themselves. I could see the shock on their faces. And then the woman said, ‘you’re meant to get a rich old one dear, then you wouldn’t have to work’ and her husband added that he ‘didn’t think this type of thing went on around here’.

My partner told me to forget about it, but then I overheard her chatting to her friends in the garden about us, so I shouted, ‘Mind your own f**king business’ and she told her friend I was common as well. Please help. I am so angry. The saving grace is we have good friends and family around us, who just see us for who we are.

Coleen says

Your new neighbours sound pretty rude and small-minded. Sadly, the world is full of those types of people, but it’s their issue. The people who count in your life are supportive and accepting, so that’s really all that matters. I doubt you’d ever want to be friends with these neighbours, so do your best to ignore them, as your partner advises, and don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you riled.

Maybe he’s a bit envious and she’s a bit threatened but, whatever it is, it’s more about them than it is about you.

But if this kind of attitude keeps hitting a nerve, it might be worth thinking about why – and perhaps confronting your own fears and insecurities.

Relationships where there’s a big age gap can throw up challenges as you both get older and enter into different stages of life, but it’s about owning those feelings, confronting them and discussing them together, which will take away their power to overwhelm you.

You’ve done great for 20 years, so keep doing what you’re doing and don’t waste any more time on people who simply aren’t worthy of it.

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